In another episode of the complex agreement to start classes safely, the School District of Philadelphia announced Wednesday that the return of in-person learning will be delayed one week. Meanwhile a third-party review of the district’s safety protocols continues.
According to a 6abc report, the return to the classroom will begin now on Monday, March 1, starting with PreK-2 students whose families chose hybrid learning in the fall.
“Due to ongoing third-party mediation requested by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, the start of our plans to slowly and safely begin phasing students and staff back into our schools will be delayed one week,” school officials said in a letter posted on their website.”
Hybrid learning will only be two days a week for students who opted for it. Students will be divided into two groups. One group will report to school on Mondays and Tuesdays, and Thursdays and Fridays will be for the second group.
A safe return is crucial
“Safely returning our kids to their schools in phases is a crucial step to help restore the sense of community and connectedness that so many of our students want and need,” the letter said.
The setback comes after the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) protested the district’s readiness to restart in-person learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The union claimed that school buildings did not have the proper conditions for the safety of students and staff. PFT pointed at the use of window fans to address airflow concerns in schools with insufficient HVAC systems as an area of contention. The union later called for a third-party review of the district’s preparations, which remains in mediation.
As reported by Fox 29, the conflict arose last week when PFT directed its members not to report to buildings as instructed by the district on February 8. After disciplinary threats from the district, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney ruled that teachers could withhold attendance until the third-party mediation is complete.
Relishing in their “massive victory” the union urged teachers to not enter school buildings and to continue scheduled protests. Prior to Kenney’s decree, the union planned a “day of action for safe schools” to protest what they believe are inadequate COVID-19 protocols.
Last week, the district showed off its preparations during a tour of schools. The district enlisted a doctor with a specialty in childhood infectious diseases to make its case. They also displayed Plexiglas dividers, fans, distancing markers, and handwashing stations.
Proper precautions in place
“I can confidently say that our schools are ready to open with the proper precautions in place, and that time to resume in-person learning is now,” said Superintendent Dr. William Hite.
Once in-person learning begins, building engineers will do safety checks in classrooms to make sure the fans are operating properly, and the room temperatures are appropriate.
Officials added students will never leave the classroom once they’re inside. They will eat in the classroom, and have their specials like art and gym in the classroom. They will only go outside for recess if the weather permits.